- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Lawmakers Demand Quick Action On Covered California Pregnancy Snafu
- Health IT 1
- As FDA Turns Watchful Eye On Silicon Valley, Health-Related Tech Companies Adjust Mindset On Agency
- Women's Health 2
- 'We Are A Dying Breed': Even In Democratic States, Abortion Clinics' Doors Are Closing
- Surrogacy Services Get Boost As China Ends One-Child Policy
- Public Health and Education 2
- Agency Shuts Down Residents' Request For Expanded Lead Testing Near Exide Plant
- Facing Down An Alzheimer's Diagnosis: 'The Beginning Is Like Purgatory'
Latest From California Healthline:
Members of the state's delegation in the U.S. Congress are asking authorities to alert customers that they could be switched from private insurance to Medi-Cal without consent or notice. (Emily Bazar, 4/29)
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More News From Across The State
But the agreement doesn't mean that shoppers will receive subsidies for plans through EyeMed. Unlike primary health coverage offered directly through the state’s health insurance exchange, vision insurance for adults is not eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
The Sacramento Business Journal:
Covered California Focuses On Another Vision Care Provider
Covered California has added the retail vision centers of EyeMed Vision Care to the state’s health insurance exchange. This is the second vision plan to reach an agreement with the exchange. Rancho Cordova-based VSP Vision Care was the first provider announced in February. ... In a statement provided to the Business Journal, EyeMed president Lukas Ruecker said the company's digital tools will add a range of health options for exchange shoppers. "They’ll now have access to a network of independent doctors, leading retail locations and even online providers," Ruecker said. (Anderson, 4/30)
Those in the highly competitive industry have begun to think of the Food and Drug Administration as an ally instead of a powerful brake on progress.
The Washington Post:
There’s A New Sheriff In Town In Silicon Valley — The FDA
Helmy Eltoukhy’s company is on a roll. The start-up is a leading contender in the crowded field of firms working on “liquid biopsy” tests that aim to be able to tell in a single blood draw whether a person has cancer. Venture investors are backing Guardant Health to the tune of nearly $200 million. Leading medical centers are testing its technology. And earlier this month, it presented promising data on how well its screening tool, which works by scanning for tiny DNA fragments shed by dying tumor cells, worked on an initial group of 10,000 patients with late-stage cancers. Just one thing is holding the company back: Guardant Health has yet to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration. (Cha, 4/28)
The unit will be able to focus on the special, complex needs of the aging population, which is rapidly growing in the United States.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Area’s First Geriatric ER Coming To UCSD
An emergency unit being planned for UC San Diego’s Thornton Hospital will be the first in the region to focus solely on seniors, a group whose sheer numbers and complex medical needs are expected to strain available resources as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age. (Sisson, 4/30)
In other hospital news —
Prime Takes The Backburner In Petaluma Valley Deal Talks
Petaluma Valley Hospital in California's Sonoma County suspended talks last week with Prime Healthcare Services while it attempts to solidify a deal with first-choice buyer St. Joseph Health.Irvine, Calif.-based St. Joseph has held the lease on 27-bed Petaluma Valley Hospital since 1997, but the 20-year agreement expires in January. St. Joseph also operates nearby 272-bed Santa Rosa (Calif.) Memorial Hospital. (Kutscher, 4/30)
A combination of the economic difficulties of operating a clinic, a generally hostile atmosphere and declining demand means that many clinics are shutting down in blue states like California.
Abortion Clinics In Blue States Are Closing, Too
As the Supreme Court debates a Texas law that has led to the closure of at least 20 clinics, providers and researchers are noticing a quieter trend: Abortion clinics are closing in blue states, too. Twelve clinics have closed in California since 2011, along with three in Washington and a number in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to data compiled by Bloomberg — all states considered relatively favorable to abortion rights because of their legislative policies. According to Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network, a national association for independent abortion care providers, for every three independent abortion clinics in her network that close in more conservative states, about two have closed in more liberal states over the past five years. (Schwartz, 5/2)
Companies in Southern California report an uptick in surrogacy-related activity coming out of the country.
San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
As China’s One-Child Policy Ends, Surrogacy Services Rise In The U.S.
With China’s controversial one-child policy no longer in effect, the U.S. is seeing a huge jump in surrogacy-related services. Ideal Legal Group Inc., a family law firm in Alhambra that specializes in international surrogacy, has already experienced an uptick. (Smith, 4/30)
At a town meeting, people who live close to the old battery plant called for the testing area to be expanded to a 4.5 mile radius. However Toxic Substances Control Director Barbara Lee said, "I don’t have funding to do that. I have funding to test up to 1.7 miles and that’s what we are going to do.”
Exide Communities Seek Wider Lead Testing, State Says No
Residents from neighborhoods affected by lead contamination from the old Exide battery recycling plant asked state officials to greatly expand the soil testing area around the plant – to a radius of 4.5 miles – during a community meeting Thursday night in Commerce. But the head of the agency overseeing the cleanup said there is no money for such an expansion of the project. (Aguilera, 4/29)
Geri Taylor could not ignore the problem any longer when she looked in the mirror and didn't recognize her own face. That day started her and her husband down the path of navigating Alzheimer's.
The New York Times:
Fraying At The Edges
It began with what she saw in the bathroom mirror. On a dull morning, Geri Taylor padded into the shiny bathroom of her Manhattan apartment. She casually checked her reflection in the mirror, doing her daily inventory. Immediately, she stiffened with fright. Huh? What? She didn’t recognize herself. ... But to not recognize her own face! To Ms. Taylor, this was the “drop-dead moment” when she had to accept a terrible truth. She wasn’t just seeing the twitches of aging but the early fumes of the disease. (N. R. Kleinfield, 5/1)
In other news, a new pilot program in San Diego aims to cut down on Alzheimer's patients' wandering —
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
County To Fight Wandering With High-Tech Device
Daniel Baker of Rancho Bernardo has been wearing a device about the size of a garage door opener around his neck since shortly after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. The 82-year-old retiree who once owned several barbecue restaurants in East County said he feels a certain peace of mind about having the item on him at all times, even though he knows it tracks his every move. (Sisson, 4/30)
Even people with insurance braved the crowds for treatments ranging from dental and vision care to tattoo removal.
The Los Angeles Daily News:
Thousands — Even With Insurance — Flock To Free Downtown Medical Clinic
For the nearly 6,000 people who turned out for the first two days of the Pathway to Health mega clinic in Los Angeles this week, the free eyeglasses, tooth extractions, echocardiograms, and even quick bump-and-lump surgery were care they likely would have gone without. (Abram, 4/29)
In other news from across the state —
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Teen’s Legacy Is Music To Patients’ Ears
During the last two years of her life, Ariana Miller fought a punishing battle with congenital heart disease. But one experience that always brightened the Olivenhain teen’s darkest hours was a visit from her music therapist. Before her death in 2008 at the age of 13, Ariana released two albums of songs she wrote and recorded during her music therapy sessions. Her parents, Jeff and Anita Miller, said these sessions allowed their daughter to tap into her emotions in a deeply healing way. (Kragen, 4/30)
The Fresno Bee:
Fresno High Adds Breast-Feeding Room For Teen Moms
When 17-year-old Karen Geronimo learned she was pregnant, she was worried about what people would think. “When I first found out, I didn’t think I could trust anyone but my parents, because I didn’t know how other people would take it,” Geronimo said. “But then I met Miss Kathy.” (Mays, 4/30)
Doctors say deaths caused by Zika complications are rare. Meanwhile, lawmakers left several unresolved issues, including a compromise that could allocate more than a billion dollars toward efforts to fight the virus, as they left on a week-long break.
The New York Times:
First U.S. Death Tied To Zika Is Reported In Puerto Rico
A Puerto Rican man died from complications of the Zika virus earlier this year, the first reported death attributed to the disease in the United States. The victim, a man in his 70s, died in February from internal bleeding as a result of a rare immune reaction to an earlier Zika infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Puerto Rico now has 683 confirmed Zika infections in its outbreak, which began in December; 89 are in pregnant women, according to Dr. Ana Ríus, the territory’s health secretary. (McNeil and Victor, 4/29)
The Associated Press:
Congress Heads Out With No Resolution On Zika, Puerto Rico
Congress accomplished relatively little in a short work period, missing deadlines on the budget and on helping Puerto Rico with its financial crisis as lawmakers began a weeklong break. They left behind few clues about how they would address must-do items such as finding money to counter the Zika virus and a second, even scarier July 1 deadline for averting a fiscal disaster in cash-strapped Puerto Rico. Democrats called upon House leaders to modify this spring's three-weeks on, one-week off legislative schedule to keep working, as Puerto Rico hurtles toward a half-billion-dollar default on Sunday. (4/30)
Elsewhere, in Sonoma —
Health Officials Report First Zika Virus Case In Sonoma County
A Sonoma County resident contracted the Zika virus after being bit by mosquitoes while on a recent trip to Central America, county health officials said Thursday, announcing the first confirmed Zika virus case in the county. (Espinoza, 4/29)
Politico looks at how an expected rise in health premiums coming out shortly before the November election could bring the health law back into the political debate. Also, Morning Consult examines House Speaker Paul Ryan's plan for high-risk pools.
Obamacare's November Surprise
The last thing Democrats want to contend with just a week before the 2016 presidential election is an outcry over double-digit insurance hikes as millions of Americans begin signing up for Obamacare. But that looks increasingly likely as health plans socked by Obamacare losses look to regain their financial footing by raising rates. ... In some ways, the turmoil is not surprising: Under the health law, plans are unable to choose who to insure, or how much to charge them based on their medical history. ... The timing, though, is bad news for Democrats. Proposed rate hikes are just starting to dribble out, setting up a battle over health insurance costs in a tumultuous presidential election year that will decide the fate of Obamacare. (Demko, 5/2)
Ryan’s Risk Pools Hit On Obamacare Criticism
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent proposal to shift sick people to their own health insurance could place a sizable financial burden on the government, but it also gets at a question that Obamacare supporters are contemplating: How to keep the cost of covering sick people from significantly increasing the cost of insurance for the healthy. Ryan’s plan, which he floated to a student audience at Georgetown University last week, would separate people with preexisting conditions from the regularly insured market. His remarks offer a glimpse into one way Republicans would “repeal and replace Obamacare” under a Republican administration. (Owens, 5/2)